TIF’s Play Connects: Bringing Toys to Children with Special Needs Served by National Lekotek Center

August 22, 2013 | The Toy Industry Foundation’s (TIF) Play Connects program invites Toy Industry Association (TIA) member companies to nominate charities in their own communities to receive TIF grant funding. In 2012, four nominated charities were selected to receive up to $10,000 each to help low income, disabled and at-risk children across the country. This is the last profile in a Toy News Tuesday summertime series showcasing how last year’s grants made an important difference in children’s lives.

Nominated by TIA member ThinkFun, Inc., National Lekotek Center was among four charities to receive a Play Connects grant of $10,000 last year to help support the nonprofit’s core program activities, which utilize therapeutic play and toys to help low income children with special needs participate fully in family life.

Thanks to the Play Connects funding, National Lekotek Center was able to administer its therapeutic child-centered play sessions to 66 families, reaching 70 children with disabilities; maintain a toy-lending library of more than 8,000 off-the-shelf and adaptive toys, software titles, and assistive technology devices borrowed by hundreds of families; provide 27 educational training and support groups to increase comfort and knowledge among parents of children with special needs; maintain a bilingual (Spanish/English) resource library for parents participating in family play sessions; offer 12 program-enriching special events to connect families with one another; and present 46 outreach training sessions on current issues related to play for kids with disabilities for nearly 500 parents and community group members in the Greater Chicago area.

“We are very proud of what has been achieved through our grant to the National Lekotek Center,” said Foundation Manager Marisa Medina.  “Not only are these programs putting productive play within reach for so many kids, they're helping to train parents and provide ongoing resources so that families with children with special needs are encouraged to incorporate appropriate play into their child’s learning and development."

Aileen, the mother of a four-year-old daughter with special needs, stated the following about the benefits of National Lekotek’s programming:

“The play sessions and seminars teach us, as parents, ways to overcome barriers in playing with a child with special needs. The webinars are spot-on. I particularly found the one on apps informative and useful. As a busy parent, I appreciate that they are archived and available for viewing on my own time. We are thankful to be part of the Lekotek family and believe in the necessity to continue and grow with the program. It is difficult enough being the parent of a typically developing child, let alone a child with special needs. It is too easy to become wrapped up in doctor's visits … Lekotek reminds us to step back, get on eye level with your child, follow their lead, smile, and just play!”

TIF depends on donations to make programs such as Play Connects possible. To make a contribution, visit www.toyindustryfoundation.org or contact Foundation Manager Marisa Medina (646.454.5581).

2013 Play Connects grant recipients will be announced this fall.